New Delhi, Feb 29 (IANS) Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented India’s national budget for 2016-17 in the Lok Sabha on Monday, saying the country was a bright spot of the global economy today, while outlining his nine focus areas in which rural development took the top slot.
“I am presenting the budget when the global economy is in crisis,” Jaitley said in his opening remarks, adding that India, however, remained the bright spot in this gloom, turning difficulties into opportunities.
He said India’s growth has expanded 7.5 percent, despite slowdown in exports, even as inflation had eased, bringing big relief to the general public. He also said foreign exchange reserves were robust. “Indian growth is at an extraordinary high.”
Jaitley said his budget will look at three pillars in right earnest: A prudent fiscal policy, raise domestic demand and carry out reforms. He also said farm, rural sector, infrastructure and social sector will be allotted more money.
“Recapitalization of banks also to be done during next fiscal year,” he said, as much concern have emerged over the quantum of exposure of Indian scheduled banks in terms of gross non-productive assets, re-cast loans and write-offs, which amounts to Rs.9.5 lakh crore.
He said the nine pillars of this year’s budget will be: agriculture, social programmes, rural development, education with skill development, infrastructure, financial reforms, policy reforms in terms of ease of doing business, fiscal discipline and tax reforms.
“A unified agriculture platform to be dedicated to the nation on the birth anniversary of Dr.B.R. Amebdkar,” the finance minister said, amid applause from the benches.
He said the government had targeted agriculture credit of Rs.8.5 lakh crore in 2015-16, which was being enhanced to Rs.9 lakh crore in the next fiscal. He also said Rs.19,000 crore will be allocated for rural roads development programme.
Overall, Rs.87,765 crores was being allocated for rural development as a whole.
At the same Rs.35,984 crore was being allocated for agriculture in the next fiscal. This apart, the outlay under the job guarantee programme was being enhanced to get Rs.38,500 crore. These enhanced allocations are capable of transforming villages and towns, Jaitley said.
He said there was also the need to spread digital literacy in rural areas. In addition, he added, Rs.8,500 crore was being allotted towards rural electrification, targeting 100 percent rural electrification by May 1, 2018.
Jaitley also assured that the government intended to double the income of farmers in five years, besides allotting Rs.35,984 crore towards welfare of farmers. The proposals also included universal coverage of cooking gas in the country, with a massive mission towards this aimed at the poor people.
In this regard, he said, the government appreciated the 75 lakh middle class and lower middle class families for willingly giving up cooking gas subsidy.
On health, he said, a new scheme will provide cover upto 1.lakh per family,